Back to Top
Skip to main content
With support from partners in academia, NETL researchers have taken steps toward realizing the potential of rotating detonation combustion technology, which can offer a number of advantages over conventional internal combustion. Internal combustion engines such as gas turbines are effective, but they suffer pressure and power output limitations. Rotating detonating engines create controlled, continuous detonation waves that rotate inside a modified gas turbine combustion chamber. This allows the engines to be able to avoid pressure losses and the subsequent decreases in efficiency that occur with conventional gas turbine engines. The rotating detonation process enables more of a fuel’s energy to be captured and utilized, resulting in higher power output, less fuel consumption, a smaller industrial footprint and reduced environmental impact. 
FOA Logo
The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy (FE) has announced $6.4 million in federal funding for cost-shared research and development projects under the funding opportunity announcement (FOA) FE-FOA 0002397, University Turbines Systems Research (UTSR) — Focus on Hydrogen Fuels. The UTSR Program conducts cutting-edge research to increase the efficiency and performance of gas turbines while lowering emissions. There is renewed interest in the use of hydrogen, a clean-burning fuel, for turbine-based electricity generation. Hydrogen production from fossil fuels, coupled with carbon capture, utilization, and storage, can generate low-cost hydrogen with net-negative carbon emissions. Waste plastics could be added to the fuel mix to produce large quantities of hydrogen and to mitigate the impact of plastics in the environment.
Image courtesy of Gas Technology Institute
Photo Caption: Image courtesy of Gas Technology Institute. The new STEP facility, supported by NETL, will house a desk-sized sCO2 turbine that could power 10,000 homes. Key recommendations to guide the operation of a first-of-its-kind testing facility to develop next-generation power plants have been issued by NETL researchers. If successful, testing at this facility will provide a pathway to lower the cost of electricity, shrink the environmental and physical footprint of power generation systems and conserve water.
Combustion Laboratory
Researchers in NETL’s Fundamental Combustion Laboratory (FCL) have developed advanced diagnostic techniques that are providing accurate, real-world data to validate models of next-generation fossil fuel and combustible renewable (i.e., hydrogen) technologies like direct power extraction (DPE) systems and rotating detonation engines (RDE). As the models become more refined, these technologies can be efficiently designed and deployed to realize significant performance benefits, which will help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide more affordable and reliable energy for the nation. “The diagnostic techniques we’ve developed are unique in that they are very application-specific,” Clint Bedick, Ph.D., who works in the FCL, said. “Whether it’s finding ways of measuring the intense heat and electrical conductivity of an oxy-combustion flame or recording an RDE shock wave that lasts only milliseconds, we tailor our approach for the specific environments in which we’ll be measuring.”
NETL researchers envision a future in which hospitals, universities and other institutions will use on-site combined heat and power (CHP) systems to produce their own electricity, as well as the energy to heat and cool their buildings, while burning less fuel and releasing fewer emissions into the atmosphere. To make that happen, NETL’s Thermal Sciences Team is designing advanced airfoils for natural gas turbines to enable CHP systems to operate with greater efficiency. “Higher efficiency increases power output using the same quantity of fuel, which translates into lower costs to run a CHP system and reduced carbon dioxide emissions,” said Doug Straub, Ph.D., who works at the Lab’s campus in Morgantown, West Virginia. The goal of the Advanced Turbine Airfoils for Efficient Combined Heat and Power Systems project is to evaluate how new airfoil cooling designs, new materials and additive manufacturing technologies can raise the efficiency of turbines used in CHP systems.
A Rotating Detonation Engine operating at the Air Force Research Laboratory.
NETL’s water-cooled Rotating Detonation Engine installed in the Lab’s High Pressure Combustion Test Facility in Morgantown, W.Va. By partnering with a host of federal agencies including NASA, NETL’s rotating detonation engine (RDE) technology development can proceed with greater effectiveness and efficiency, potentially speeding up real-world applications of the engines.
Story Image
Three NETL researchers coauthored an invited article on nickel-based superalloys for the 50th anniversary issue of the prestigious journal Metallurgical and Materials Transactions (MMT) A. The paper, titled “Solving Recent Challenges for Wrought Ni-Base Superalloys,” discussed the status of technology, design and manufacture of advanced superalloys required for fossil energy and aerospace applications. Martin Detrois, Paul Jablonski and Jeffery Hawk, all based at NETL’s Albany site, contributed to the article by conducting a review of work to understand the suitability of candidate alloys for multiple applications in advanced-ultra supercritical (AUSC) coal-fired power plants, which will burn hotter and more efficiently than current plants to provide more power with fewer emissions.
Turbine Blade
A cooperative partnership with NETL is advancing the development of next-generation gas turbines to perform with greater efficiency and at higher temperatures to meet the nation’s energy needs while generating cleaner power. Since 2011, the Steady Thermal Aero Research Turbine (START) Lab at Penn State University has progressed from a floor plan into a world-class testing facility capable of simulating realistic turbine operating conditions, thanks in large measure to support from NETL and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy. Other main sponsors are Penn State and Pratt & Whitney, a division of United Technologies. To generate electricity, gas turbines combust a mixture of air and fuel, such as natural gas, at high temperatures and pressures. This high-temperature and high-pressure gas is expanded through a series of nozzles and blade-like airfoils, causing the turbine shaft to spin. The spinning shaft, in turn, drives a generator that produces electricity. Gas turbines also can be used in combination with steam turbines — in a combined-cycle power plant — to create power.
FOA Logo
The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy (FE) and NETL have selected two projects to receive approximately $9 million in federal funding for cost-shared research and development projects under Phase II of the funding opportunity announcement (FOA) DE-FOA-0001816, Advanced Components for 65% Combined Cycle Efficiency, sCO2 Power Cycles and Advanced Modular Heat Engines. These projects will support DOE’s Advanced Coal and Power Systems program by developing advanced, highly efficient, turbine-based technologies applicable to fossil fuels, including coal-derived synthesis gas, coal-derived hydrogen, and natural gas. The National Energy Technology Laboratory will manage the projects. The projects fall under two areas of interest. Project descriptions follow. Area of Interest 1: Advanced Combustion Turbines for Combined Cycle Applications
ASME Turbo Expo
NETL experts attended the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Turbomachinery Technical Conference and Exposition — also known as the Turbo Expo — in Phoenix, Arizona, June 17-21 to support finding new solutions to today’s energy challenges. The three-day annual exhibition attracts the industry’s leading professionals and key decision-makers whose innovation and expertise help shape the future of the turbomachinery industry. At the expo, NETL showcased its capabilities by displaying its research and development competencies and exploration into coal-fueled turbine-based power systems to attendees. The conference featured over 300 paper sessions with more than 1,000 papers and more than 80 panel, tutorial and lecture sessions. Richard Dennis, a member of the NETL’s Efficient Energy Conversion team, chaired panel sessions surrounding important issues relevant to the turbomachinery industry. Topics ranged from discussing the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Turbines Program to future trends and opportunities in turbomachinery and clean energy technology.